AZ Sheriff Arpaio's actions under ethics review

By JACQUES BILLEAUD | September 12, 2011 | 6:05 PM EDT

PHOENIX (AP) — Criminal investigations of politicians and judges by America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff are under a microscope in a disciplinary hearing against a former prosecutor who brought the cases to court.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio isn't the subject of the disciplinary case, but his investigations took center stage at the ethics hearing Monday of his ally, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Thomas is accused of bringing criminal cases against two county officials to embarrass them and of charging a judge with bribery and obstruction of justice when Thomas knew the charges were false. All three cases collapsed in court.

Arpaio and Thomas contend that they were trying to root out corruption in county government.